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Beethoven s 9th

Beethoven’s 9th on DVD Audio

If you’re a fan of Beethoven’s Ninth, you need to hear it on this DVD-Audio disc, where the sound positively leaps out of the home theater and into your listening room.

We were first turned on to the Ninth many years ago, by Stanley Kubrick (who also turned us on to Strauss). We’re still rather ambivalent about parts of it, but the second movement and much of the fourth are “the stuff that dreams are made of” – though our limited classical library meant we’ve never had really good recordings of them before.

Well now we do.

This version sounds spectacular.

It's conducted by Daniel Barenboim, in whose musical life Beethoven has been extremely important. In fact, he has recorded all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies in a CD boxed set and these are scheduled for DVD-Audio release as well. We can't wait.

Barenboim is well known for his performances, especially of the works of Beethoven, and here his conducting is excellent – as of course is the performance of the Berliner Staatskapelle in front of which he stands.

This single DVD-A release of the Ninth is another excellent example not only of the Symphony itself, but of the wonderful DVD Audio medium.

The orchestra is magnificent, with great emotion and articulation, and the 5.1 surround digital recording offers sound quality that’s simply scrumptious. The surround channels are used mostly to provide that so-important ambience, as if you’re in the symphony hall with the musicians spread out on the stage in front of you. No artificial-sounding surround use here – instead, it’s a glorious recreation of a night in the tux, tucked away a few rows from the front and wonderfully enveloped by what could be the great composer’s most famous work.

There are no extras on the disc itself that are really worth crowing about, but you do get a decent liner essay on the work in question as well as a shorter one about conductor Barenboim – in several languages. You also get the lyrics for the fourth movement’s Ode to Joy as well as pictures of the soloists. The extras on the disc include "Beethoven's Works in Their Time," which is basically just a chronological listing of his compositions, in the context of competitors and world events. There's a fairly interesting, and quite short, interview with Barenboim and crew on Beethoven and the DVD-Audio recording, which could serve as an interesting introduction to the medium, as well as credits and listings of other releases.

Our bottom line here is that if you love Beethoven's Ninth, and want a pristine digitially recorded version that carries you away on its wings of sound, this is a good disc to try. The performance is outstanding, and the sound quality is as well. This is no retread of an old analog recording, no matter how good that may be. It’s a state-of-the-art extravaganza, a treat for the ears.


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